A good experience booking group train travel
I’ve had a very positive group-travel booking experience that I thought would be useful and beneficial to tell you.
In January, I’m taking 24 friends for a holiday in Alpe d’Huez, and it may come as no surprise to you that we are going by train – and all pretty excited about it. We’re going by Eurostar and then TGV, and actually stopping over in Paris, so that we get a night there too. The journey is going to be a lot of fun.
But how did I, as the holiday organiser, book this for so many people? Well, I contacted the groups department of Voyages SNCF and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was.
My original email, (sent on Sept 11th to email@example.com) was as follows:
"Dear SNCF Grouptours,
I would like to arrange return rail travel for 22 people for a ski trip.
Outbound date departing London: Sunday 11th Jan 2015 about 10:30am
Return date departing Grenoble: Sunday 18th Jan 2015 about 10:30am
Standard Class, table seats where possible.
Lead passenger name: Daniel Elkan
NB - if it is approx same cost, on the outbound we are considering travelling outbound instead on the Saturday 10th Jan to Paris (at about 2pm) and then staying in Paris and taking a late-morning TGV to Grenoble.
Please could you let me know the cost of this and what the next stage is. Is it already available to book?
SNCF replied with a sample schedule but said that it was “not able to confirm prices for this at this stage but can tell you that the prices will range from £98 to £305 return per person.”
That’s a big difference in price, from lowest to highest – clearly a case of SNCF erring on the side of caution by stating what the highest price could be. I knew from experience that there was no way we would be paying anywhere near £305 (mid Jan is low season, so fares would be low, I was sure) – but emails like that, sent to anyone that doesn’t know better, could put people off. Isn’t there a way for SNCF to give more accurate price predictions?
Anyway, happily, on 10th October (six days before the winter public booking window opened) SNCF contacted me to offer me a group rate, per person, of £98 return. Everyone was pleased with that price. And even better, SNCF hold this price, on a no commitment basis, until December 15th. Plenty of time to round up your ski troops and get them to transfer the shekels to you. Also, if fewer people decide to come, you are allowed to book fewer places (as long as it is a minimum of 10).
Now, booking train travel can sometimes feel like a right pain in the proverbial - no doubt about that. But in this case it has proved very straightforward, made easier by the fact that there was a big group of us, and we could therefore take advantage of these group-travel options.
So if there is a big group of you, you may be able to benefit of this booking process. And if you need more advice about any aspect of ski holidays by train for groups, you are welcome to email me first.